It is awfully easy to make light of dust-ups like the one over Phil Robertson. Does it matter what a reality show celeb says and whether he stays on the air? Narrowly speaking, no. I didn’t know Robertson except for seeing him a while back on the cover of a People Magazine knock-off in a check out line, and I don’t give a rat’s ass about duck hunting. I’m urban.
But these kinds of escapades do present interesting morality tales for the people to chew on, me included. In a way, it is how the populi find their vox on important cultural questions. Some bread, some circus, some philosophizing about things that matter. And while I don’t care about Robertson, there are some interesting issues that underlie the fight he is in.
At what point are a group, person or cause entitled to a kind of special status, one that precludes a certain kind of discussion? We get hot and bothered about not being nice to all, but, c’mon, there is no progress without hypocrisy, sharp edges, hurt feelings and , yes, repression. It’s not nice to remind people, but things we now take for granted, like post WW2 de-Nazification in Germany, or the unspoken ban on racially derisive comments in polite society, include things like shaming and blacklisting and firing people. You cannot say these things are wrong on the face of it (though they most often are). There needs to be a deeper discussion over whether such measures are warranted. So bring on the fights.
Now all is fair in love, war and morality tales, so I don’t want to go too far in telling people how they should play this game. Still and all, Camille Paglia, who has a knack of showing up ringside at all of these events, has a habit of getting under my skin (in a bad way), even when I tend to agree with her.
Her latest entry into the rough-and-tumble is a sharply worded attack on PC culture, as evidenced by A&E’s decision to sideline Robertson over his remarks about gays. As ever, she is sharp tongued. But she throws wild punches too. As a result, I find myself saying 1) “yes, yes, yes”. As the argument goes along, that’s followed by 2) “uh-oh”. And that’s followed by 3) “ouch!”.
So let’s take that three way reaction and map it to the rant in question.
I give this a “yes, yes”:
In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as well as they have the right to support homosexuality – as I one hundred percent do. If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again, they have a right of religious freedom there.
Lots of people would keep it there. But Camille is not one to be restrained. It’s not her brand. So it is on to the “uh-oh” phase:
To express yourself in a magazine in an interview – this is the level of punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist [tactics] that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic Party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades.
I get the point. But it’s kind of . . . umm . . . overstated? Fascist? Stalinist? Utterly Fascist? Utterly Stalinist? The last time I looked Robertson was not being shipped off to a gulag. OK, so maybe chalk it up to Camille’s dramatic tendencies, and to a larger gift for polemics than clear analysis. But it is not just a polemical punch. She goes on, and we then reach the inevitable “ouch”:
This is why there is no cultural life now in the U.S.: why nothing is of interest coming from the major media in terms of cultural criticism; why the graduates of the Ivy League with their A, A, A+ grades are complete cultural illiterates, etc. is because they are not being educated in any way to give respect to opposing view points.
Let’s stipulate that there has been a dumbing down of culture in the last few decades. The Times’s culture criticism would have been highbrow several decades ago. Now hip-hop and reality shows are above the fold. This is somehow the fault of . . . of elites not paying proper respects to “opposing viewpoints”? Doesn’t it seem more likely that the dumbing down is mostly a matter of the supply for dumb meeting demand for dumb?
And that includes Duck Dynasty. No reason to make a hero out of a Snooki with a ZZ Top beard. And please don’t pretend he is the bastard child of Harvard condescension.